WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Some 8th graders, from Gifford, are getting the royal treatment during their trip to our nation's Capital. Senator Mark Kirk (R) had this flag flown over the U.S. Capitol Building. It was in honor of the kids and town which endured so much. Tuesday, the flag was given to the class.
The students' trip was in jeopardy after the charter bus company they hired went out of business. After people heard the news, they helped pay for a different company so the kids could continue on with the trip.
GIFFORD -- Eighth-graders are getting their trip to Washington, D.C., just as they planned. Last week, they found out the trip was in jeopardy after the charter bus company they were using went out of business.
After the story ran, phones started ringing off the hook and people from all over donated money to cover the cost of the trip from another company. They leave Saturday.
Carleen Lantis is one of the parents planning the trip. She says the students plan on paying it forward once they get back from D.C.
GIFFORD -- It was supposed to be a trip to get their minds off November's tornado, but now kids from town have no idea how they'll get to Washington. Each year, parents put together a trip for 8th graders.
Just Thursday, they found out the charter bus company they were going to use went out of business and the trip is just a week away. Even though four-and-a-half months have past, kids here can't escape what happened around them.
"When we go to school, we see no houses in Gifford. Except for maybe a couple and it's really heartbreaking just to see that."
Many of Emily Schluter's friends lost their home in November's tornado, but thanks to years of friendship, they've helped each other get through it.
"After 8, 9 years of being together, we're really close now. We're like family."
The promise of an 8th grade rite of passage helped lift spirits too.
"Anytime we can get during class, like free time, that's the only thing we're talking about, because it's so close."
"These kids have worked really hard. They're a good group of kids who've been really looking forward to it and we've wanted to make it about them. It's their trip."
They're talking about the annual trip to Washington, D.C. Carleen Lantis is one of the parents planning it, but at the last minute, she got some heartbreaking news.
"He finally called yesterday afternoon and said, 'We're out of business.' My heart dropped. It sunk."
Each student raised $650 to go on the trip, but as Carleen looks for new bus companies to use, they may have to raise more.
"Coming up with last minute ideas. We don't have much time."
"Anything we can do to make more money, it's worth it, even if we're up 'til midnight doing something, it's worth it."
Because, after all, these kids have been through, a trip to D.C. is the least they deserve.
"Just making that possible is the most important thing right now."
"D.C. or bust!"
Carleen says they've talked to a few companies which say they could drive them last minute, but it's going to cost them more than they've already raised. So, they plan to raise more money up until next Saturday.
For more information, call Carleen Lantis at (217) 979 - 2999.
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